An outspoken British member of parliament and leading opponent of the war in Iraq was paid more than $10 million by Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to a new set of documents uncovered in a Baghdad house used by the ousted dictator’s son Qusay.
The London Telegraph reported earlier this week of documents found in the Iraqi Foreign Ministry suggesting Labour Party member George Galloway received an annual cut from Iraq’s exports under the oil-for-food program worth approximately $585,500.
In an apparent widening of the scandal, the Christian Science Monitor said it obtained papers including direct orders from the Saddam regime to issue Galloway six individual payments, starting in July 1992 and ending in January 2003, totaling more than $10 million.
The regime’s apparent aim was to use its oil wealth to win friends in the West who could promote Iraqi interests by lifting sanctions, and later, block war plans, the Monitor said.
In Parliament, Galloway accused Blair of teaming with President Bush in a “crusade” against Muslims, labeling the leaders “wolves.”
Saddam’s special security section and accountants of his secretive Republican Guard authorized the payments. The three most recent ones, beginning April 4, 2000, and ending on January 14, 2003, are for $3 million each.
The Monitor said all three authorizations include statements that show the Iraqi leadership’s strong political motivation in paying Galloway for his opposition to U.S. and British plans to invade Iraq.
The Labor Party MP, who has denied the allegations, is now the focus of a preliminary investigation by British law-enforcement officials.
Galloway’s office issued a response today to the Monitor’s claims, published in a London Guardian story. The statement said in part:
“George Galloway has not received any money from Saddam Hussein’s regime in return for his support or any other reason, and he intends to take legal action in respect of the publication of these false allegations. He hopes that the British media will not further disseminate them under the guise of public interest or otherwise.”
The Monitor said it has a Jan. 14, 2003, document, written on Republican Guard stationary with its Iraqi eagle and “Trust in Allah,” calling for the “Manager of the security department, in the name of President Saddam Hussein, to order a gratuity to be issued to Mr. George Galloway of British nationality in the amount of three million dollars only.”
The document states the money is in return for “his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British prime minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people. … ”
A final authorization appears to have been signed by Qusay, the chief of Iraq’s elite Guard units, who notes the accounting department should “issue the check and deliver to Mr. George Galloway,” adding, “Do this fast and inform me.”
An Iraqi general attached to the Republican Guard, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, discovered the documents in a house in the Baghdad suburbs used by Qusay.
The Monitor said Galloway, an MP since 1987, made regular visits to Iraq, and was dubbed by conservatives in Britain as an “apologist for Saddam Hussein.” He once told the dictator, “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.”
Galloway’s statement said, “These allegations are also totally untrue. George Galloway did not visit Iraq before 1993 and has never met Qusay Hussein or even heard of any of the other people whose names are supposed to be mentioned in the documents. These documents are also inconsistent with the other documents referred to in the press recently.”
The London Telegraph reporter who first broke the story, David Blair, told the BBC: “I think it would require an enormous amount of imagination to believe that someone went to the trouble of composing a forged document in Arabic and then planting it in a file of patently authentic documents and burying it in a darkened room on the off-chance that a British journalist might happen upon it and might bother to translate it. That strikes me as so wildly improbable as to be virtually inconceivable.”
Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, himself an outspoken opponent of the war, came to Galloway’s defense in an opinion piece in the London Guardian.
“Having been on the receiving end of smear campaigns designed to assassinate the character of someone in opposition to the powers that be, I have grown highly suspicious of dramatic revelations conveniently timed to silence a vocal voice of dissent,” Ritter said.